Category Archives: Student Questions

where does my research problem come from for module #3?

I’m a little lost on how to begin module 3. Do I need to write a new literature review for this module? Or can I refine a problem statement and research questions etc. and go from there?

The idea behind the course is that you use modules you’ve worked on in future ones, so you are absolutely encouraged to use the problem statement you came up with in Module #1 and the literature review you came up with in Module #2.

Essentially, I’m asking you in Module #3 to come up with a research method for collecting qualitative data to answer a specific research question. Think about the gap you identified for your literature review. What unanswered questions can you identify from that gap? Then think about a way you could collect qualitative data to answer those questions, such as by conducting interviews, focus groups, usability tests, a field study with a specific group of people (i.e. professionals in a particular industry, teachers, students, non-profit staff or volunteers, etc.) and/or collecting specific documents.

That being said, you can pick a different research problem for each module, but yes: you’ll need to repeat the steps from the first two modules: coming up with a research problem and then reviewing literature. These are essential steps for designing a research study, which is what we’re practicing in this class (and what you’ll be asked to do for the final project).

How specific should i be in my research instrument?

In module 3, should I identify a specific organization or is it better to keep this assignment more general? E.g. research participants will be employees of a large organization (more than 5,000 employees), or research participants will be employees of New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Either is fine for the purposes of this module, but the more specific you can make it, the better. If you were to really run this study, for example, you would recruit real, live people. So, if you have real, live people in mind, why not mention them?

Questions about types of sources in tpc

Do our sources need to come from TPC-specific journals, like the examples you provide for our first module? Or can they be articles that are just related to TPC in some way? For example, I have seen interesting articles in the International Journal of Advertising and in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour – would journals like those be suitable as well?​

As long as they relate to TPC, I’m fine with it. TPC is an interdisciplinary field, so citations of research from other fields are common.

Do all sources need to be research articles, or are we also able to use practitioner articles, etc?

TPC is also a field that values practitioner-based inquiry, so it is also common to cite practitioner-based articles as well, including those published in industry-specific journals (e.g.

I’ve been researching topics related to fundraising; am I better off narrowing that window down (for example, digital fundraising, or corporate fundraising, or fundraising communication), or should I stick with a more broad topic?

So, this is a question regarding how large a small a gap you should be trying to identify. As a rule of thumb, I advise: as small as you can make it. It is always harder to account for a larger gap in research, especially when you’re first getting started. So, focusing on a smaller gap is always advisable. That being said, sometimes there just isn’t that much research done on a certain area. In this case, you still want to focus down as much as you can. Think about focusing on a specific problem or question, such as how a problem is solved in a practitioner space, what a new trend means for the field, or the ever-popular: how to do something. We get a lot of “how to do something” publications in TPC because we value innovation as a field.

Student question: how do i spot a research article?

Someone emailed me the following question and I thought others might have the same one

If [an article is] not clearly labeled a research article, is there something specific I can look for to know for sure it is and will work for this assignment?


You’re learning that “research” is kind of a bit wonky in this field when compared to others (such as the hard sciences or social sciences). And yes, some of our journals are not consistently formatted.
A clue as to whether something is a research article:

  • Does the article mention collecting actual data?
  • Does it call itself a research study or (sometimes just ‘a study’)?
  • Does it mention a specific research method, such as “a survey of x,” “interviews with y,” or “systematic analysis of z”?
  • Does it mention reporting research findings?

Hope that helps.